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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Mo. Senate Approves Bill To Pay for HPV Information, Vaccination for Sixth Graders

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Mo. Senate Approves Bill To Pay for HPV Information, Vaccination for Sixth Graders
[March 12, 2008]

The Missouri Senate last week passed a bill (SB 778) that would send parents of sixth-grade girls in public schools information about the connection between HPV and cervical cancer and the availability of the HPV immunization, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jolie Justus (D), also would allow the state to provide Gardasil, the only cervical cancer vaccine approved in the U.S., at no cost to girls who are uninsured and are not covered by CDC's Vaccines for Children Program. The measure would cost the state about $2.3 million to pay for an estimated 6,000 girls to be vaccinated, according to state health officials (Logan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/7).

The law would not require girls to be vaccinated, although parents would be asked to voluntarily provide a written statement to the state Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services indicating that they have received the information and that the student has received the immunization or the parents have decided not to have the student immunized (SB 778 text, 3/12).

Gardasil in clinical trials has been shown to prevent infection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases, and to prevent infection with HPV strains 6 and 11, which cause about 90% of genital warts cases (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 2/7). Some opponents of the bill have questioned Gardasil's safety and effectiveness, while other opponents have said that the vaccine will promote sexual promiscuity.

Justus said the vaccine has been given to more than 12,000 girls since it received FDA approval. She added that she worked on the bill with the Missouri Catholic Conference and the Missouri Family Network. Larry Weber, director of the Catholic Conference, said the group supports the measure because the program is not mandatory. The bill now heads to the state House, where a similar measure was defeated last year (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/7).